Ledyard voters approve school project

LedyardResidents approved a $65.8 million school renovation project at the polls Tuesday, with approximately 74 percent voting in favor of the proposal.

"We're thrilled and grateful to the taxpayers for their overwhelming support of this project," Mayor John Rodolico said Tuesday night.

Slightly more than 20 percent of registered voters participated in the referendum.

The vote affects Ledyard Center School, which will be demolished, and Gallup Hill Elementary School and Ledyard Middle School, which will be extensively renovated.

School officials say the project is critical because all three buildings are around 50 years old and need several upgrades. Because the project is designed to take advantage of the state's "renovate as new" category, the town expects the state to cover the majority of the costs, leaving only some $24 million for the town to cover.

Few people have voiced opposition to the expensive proposal, which school officials have been enthusiastically promoting with after-school presentations for parents and a website with exhaustive amounts of information.

At a town meeting last week, some residents questioned the wisdom of taking on debt or asked why all three schools needed to be worked on simultaneously, but most expressed support for the project.

Even fiscal conservatives, like Rodolico, spoke in favor of the renovations.

"I fully endorse this project," Rodolico said last Monday, citing similar projects on the table in towns like East Lyme and Stonington. "I think it's something we as a town need to do to stay competitive."

Officials say the buildings have developed problems with leaky roofs, overloaded electrical systems and unreliable septic systems.

The renovations also will allow the district to make other upgrades to the schools, including a kitchen and cafeteria for Gales Ferry School, where lunches are currently brought in from another site and consumed in the gymnasium.

Other upgrades, said school officials, will make the buildings safer, provide more ambient lighting and make them compliant with federal disability access regulations.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

Twitter: @kccatalfamo

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